Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chemical Control Reform - Kids Safe Out...ChAMP In?

As discussed here previously, the US is taking a hard look at its 30+ year old chemical control law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Many argue that the law is outdated, both because it doesn't require health and safety data for new chemical notifications and because the bar for regulating existing chemicals seems too high a hurdle. Around 63,000 existing chemicals were grandfathered onto the TSCA Inventory with no health and safety review, and only a handful have seen such reviews since.

Options abound. Should the US pursue a system more like the new chemical control law in Europe, called REACH, which requires that manufacturers and importers of all chemicals - existing and new - provide a dossier summarizing health and safety for all intended uses? Or something more like the Canadian prioritization review and management program in which the government does the hard work of the initial screen for all existing chemicals? Or something like the Kid Safe Chemical Act that has twice been introduced by the US Congress before?

This week at the annual GlobalChem chemical industry conference being held in Baltimore, MD, Jim Jones, EPA's acting toxics and pesticides chief, told attendees at the GlobalChem chemical industry conference in Baltimore, that at the office's first meeting with new EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, she told staff that “‘ChAMP is fine, but I want to see more, more quickly.’”

ChAMP is the current semi-authorized by TSCA mechanism that EPA has been using to maximize the value of the reams of data received under the voluntary HPV Challenge program between 1998 and 2008. But ChAMP goes further, with proposed enhancements that would "reset" the TSCA Inventory, look at moderate volume chemicals, and inorganic high production volume chemicals that were excluded from the original HPA Challenge.

Jones' comments signal that EPA may be leaning toward TSCA Reform that mirrors more the ChAMP program than the Kid Safe Act. Environmental and health advocacy groups have favored the Kid Safe Act because it puts the onus on producing data on the manufacturers of chemicals, similar to REACH in the EU. Industry favors something more like ChAMP, which initially would require more Agency effort during the screening process, but may provide for a quicker review and prioritization. Once chemicals are prioritized for more in-depth review, industry would provide specific data focused on addressing any real or perceived concerns.

Jackson has hinted on more than one occasion since taking office that she favors the current chemical management system as a basis for reforming the program. The ChAMP program was initiated following former President Bush's commitment to complete the characterizations of Inventory chemicals by 2012 as part of the 2007 Security and Prosperity Partnership agreement with Mexican and Canadian officials.

Officially though, the administration has not yet taken a position on TSCA reform, but Jones suggests that "the administrator is “very interested” in the issue and has discussed the issue “with her small political team several times.” Meanwhile, EPA will continue to use its existing TSCA authorities to regulate substances that are of concern. While Congress is mulling the future of TSCA, EPA has been more assertive in using such TSCA authorized tools as test rules and enforcement actions. It also has been very busy reviewing the data received from the HPV Challenge and issuing hazard and risk prioritizations.

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